Card Review: Chase Sapphire Reserve

See why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best premium cards for frequent travelers.

The Flight Brothers Card Review: Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) sits at the top of just about every premium credit card list, and for good reason. Few credit cards offer a similar set of benefits and annual statement credits that are both useful and easy to use (there’s a difference). With its comprehensive benefits and travel protections, strong bonus spending categories, and excellent rewards flexibility, the CSR sets the bar very high in the premium travel card segment. For that reason, it’s one of our absolute favorite credit cards.

Quick links
Introduction to Chase Sapphire Cards
Welcome offer
Earning Ultimate Rewards
Card benefits
Protections and coverages
Redeeming Ultimate Rewards
Final thoughts

Introduction to Chase Sapphire cards

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of two Chase Sapphire credit cards currently available – the other being its entry-level counterpart, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Both Sapphire cards participate in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, allowing you to transfer points to over a dozen travel partners or redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

It’s important to note that you cannot have more than one Sapphire card, so make sure to familiarize yourself with both products since you can only hold one at a time. As is the case with all Chase cards, you will not be approved for a Chase credit card if you have five or more new applications for credit approved within a 24 month period (this is called the Chase “5/24” rule). Additionally, new cardmember bonuses for a Sapphire cards are limited to once every 48 months.

Don’t let the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee shell shock you into dismissing it – the CSR offers an incredible amount of value. It even received a few enhancements at the beginning of 2020 (granted, the annual fee also went up $100). Plus, many consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s net annual fee to be $250 instead of $550 thanks to a $300 annual travel credit that automatically applies to travel purchases.

Let’s take a closer look at why frequent travelers and points hobbyists should strongly consider Chase Sapphire Reserve, and what makes it a top pick among premium credit cards today.

Welcome offer

The current welcome offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve is 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card membership.

While this is not the highest welcome offer we’ve ever seen for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’s still a substantial number of Ultimate Rewards points. At minimum, 50,000 points can be redeemed for $500 cash back, $750 toward travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, or potentially even more when transferred to travel partners.

Earning with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

The CSR has great earning rates in a handful of broad bonus categories:

  • 3x Ultimate Rewards points on travel
  • 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining
  • 10x Ultimate Rewards points on Lyft rides
  • 1x Ultimate Rewards points on everything else

Earning 3x points on travel and dining is a great return, though it’s worth noting 3x points isn’t necessarily category leading for premium cards. For example, the Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige both earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines.

However, Chase’s 3x travel category is not limited to just airfare — it also includes public transport, rental cars, parking meters, and much more. Similarly for dining, we have had plenty of experiences where airport restaurants and entertainment venues like Top Golf and Dave & Busters, for example, have coded as 3x points. So as far as breadth of categories, Chase covers its bases very broadly.

Additionally, the CSR is way ahead of the pack when it comes to ride sharing, offering 10x points on Lyft rides. This makes the CSR a must-have for those who frequently ride share – especially given Chase’s recent enhancements thanks to a new partnership with Lyft.

So while there are other premium cards that offer greater returns on narrower bonus categories, the CSR is extremely well-rounded with strong returns on broad categories. Earning 3x points on dining and travel, and 10x points on Lyft rides really makes it a strong go-to card for daily spending when you’re on-the-go.

Cardmember benefits

In addition to a great points earning structure, the CSR comes loaded with excellent benefits that help offset the $550 annual fee. You’ll have to determine your own personal valuations for these benefits, but there are more than enough to make the annual fee easier to stomach.

$300 annual travel credit

One of the best benefits of the CSR is its $300 annual travel credit. While many cards requirement enrollment to take advantage of statement credits, this is not the case with Chase. You’re automatically enrolled, and travel purchases are automatically reimbursed. With Chase’s generous definition of “travel”, this $300 credit is as good as cash — if you do any sort of commuting or traveling, it doesn’t take much to exhaust it at the beginning of every year.

DoorDash benefits

Thanks to a new 2020 partnership with DoorDash, the CSR now also includes a one-year complimentary DashPass subscription, which provides waived delivery fees and reduced service fees on orders over $12 with participating restaurants. As a DashPass subscription costs $9.99 per month, this represents a $120 value. Given that this is still a relatively new benefit, no announcement has yet been made as to whether this subscription will continue beyond 2021.

In addition to the DashPass subscription, cardmembers also get up to $60 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases in 2020 and in 2021. That’s another $120 in added value, totaling $240 in overall value with DoorDash. This benefit has been especially helpful recently, as many businesses are limited to pick-up and delivery services due to COVID-19.

Save on service and delivery fees with complimentary DashPass membership
Lyft Pink & bonus rewards

Alongside the DoorDash announcement earlier this year, Chase announced another enhancement for the CSR: a one-year complementary Lyft Pink subscription. Lyft Pink carries a price tag of $19.99 per month and offers discounted pricing, priority airport pickups, and “exclusive Lyft offers”.

Lyft Pink delivers a 15% discount on all Lyft rides, which amounts to considerable savings for ride sharers. When combined with earning 10x points on Lyft rides, you may find your Uber app taking a permanent backseat. We’ve almost exclusively transitioned to Lyft after being fairly loyal to Uber last year (for no other reason other than the fact that we needed to use our Amex Platinum Uber credits and ease of acquiring Uber credit via Visa Local Offers).

Priority Pass Select membership

One of our favorite CSR travel benefits is the complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which offers free access to over 1,300 Priority Pass lounges, Minute Suites, and restaurant lounges worldwide (and counting). This is an enormous benefit for frequent travelers and makes traveling significantly less monotonous and draining.

Chase offers one of the least restrictive Priority Pass membership of any premium card. Priority Pass memberships issued by American Express, for example, do not include restaurant credits. For that reason, we always use our Chase Priority Pass membership when we travel.

If you’re trying to assign a valuation against Priority Pass Select membership, Priority Pass sells “Prestige membership” for $429 per year. It’s hard to calculate real-world value for these visits, but you’ll be glad you have it if you travel at least a few times per year.

Pictured: Plaza Premium Lounge in Kuala Lumpur
$100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit

As is common among most premium credit cards, the CSR offers a statement credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee. We’d recommend applying for Global Entry, which includes a Known Traveler Number that you can use for TSA Precheck clearance.

Chase Offers

Chase Offers are targeted spend incentives that offer cash back or statement credits for purchases with select merchants. Offers can be viewed in your online account or in the Chase mobile app and must be manually added. Once the terms are met, credits are automatically applied. Chase Offers rotate throughout the year, so make sure to check back regularly.

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection + sbe hotels

A lesser known benefit of the CSR is having access to a couple of unique hotel programs and partnerships. These programs are less popular than the other benefits mentioned above, but we’ll still cover them as there’s some good circumstantial value to be had.

Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection can be very valuable for travelers without top-tier hotel elite status. Booking a hotel through this program grants you the following benefits:

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Complementary WiFi
  • Room upgrades (if available)
  • Early check-in and late checkout (if available)
  • Unique property benefit: a special benefit unique to the property, such as a dining or spa credit or other privileges

Additionally, Chase has a similar agreement with sbe hotels (who only have 18 properties). Property benefits are nearly identical, with exception of a $30 dining hotel credit in lieu of the “unique property benefit”. However, the biggest benefit with sbe hotels is that your fourth night is free on stays of 4 consecutive nights.

These are decent hotel programs, but you’ll have to determine how valuable they are to you. If used the right way, they can certainly amount to substantial savings and be a good value if you were already planning on paying for stays out of pocket – especially if you’re not loyal to any one specific hotel brand.

Pictured: Mondrian Los Angeles

Card protections

In addition to all these fantastic benefits, the CSR offers extremely comprehensive travel and purchase protections for covered trips that outclass its premium card rivals. See our CSR benefits breakdown (coming soon) for more information on Chase Sapphire Reserve travel and purchase protections.

Travel protections

For travel reimbursements and insurances, you must charge all or a portion of a covered trip to your card and/or redeem travel through the Ultimate Rewards program.

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Get primary coverage and reimbursement of up to $75,000 for vehicle theft and collision damage for car rentals in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Trip Delay Insurance: For travel delays that are over 6 hours or require an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for up to $500 per ticket.
  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance: If travel plans change due to sickness, severe weather, and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for pre-paid, nonrefundable expenses.
  • Baggage Delay Insurance: Reimburses essential purchases like toiletries, clothing and other necessities for baggage delays over 6 hours, up to $100 per day for 5 days.
  • Travel Accident Insurance: Covers death and dismemberment up to $1,000,000.
  • Roadside Assistance: Call 1-800-847-2869 for 24-hour roadside dispatch. They can help with anything from a tow or jumpstart to a tire change, lockout service, winching or gas delivery. Roadside service fees will be provided upfront and will be billed to your card.
Emergency services

Just as important as travel protections are two excellent emergency protections offered by the CSR:

  • Emergency Medical and Dental: Get reimbursed up to $2,500 if you become sick or injured while traveling.
  • Emergency Evacuation: Get reimbursed up to $100,000 if you or an immediately family member get sick or injured while traveling.
Purchase guarantees

Chase also offers three excellent purchase coverages:

  • Purchase Protection: New purchases are covered for up to 120 days against damage or theft, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
  • Return Protection: Get reimbursed for items that the store won’t take back within 90 days. You’re covered for up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
  • Extended Warranty: Purchased products that have U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less will receive an extra year of warranty coverage.

Redeeming Ultimate Rewards

The CSR unlocks the most value and flexibility of any Chase credit card when it comes to redeeming Ultimate Rewards. While awards can be redeemed at a flat rate of 1 cent per point in the form of statement credits or gift cards, the single best way to redeem them is for travel.

With the CSR, Ultimate Rewards are worth 50% more value when booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. So, while there are other credit cards that offer 4x or 5x bonus categories, earning 3x Ultimate Rewards points means a minimum return of 4.5 cents per dollar when you redeem for travel.

But in our opinion, the greatest value is in redeeming Ultimate Rewards for award travel, thanks to Chase’s network of 13 hotel and airline transfer partners.

Aer Lingus Air France-KLM British Airways
Emirates Hyatt Iberia
InterContinental (IHG) JetBlue Marriott
Singapore Airlines Southwest Airlines United Airlines
Virgin Atlantic    

Our favorite transfer partners are British Airways, Hyatt, Singapore Airlines, United and Southwest. We find that we can frequently achieve over $0.02 per point through these partner programs.

Enjoy gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Embarcadero Club Lounge

Final thoughts

The CSR is incredibly valuable for frequent travelers who value the Ultimate Rewards program. It tops our list of premium credit cards even despite the annual fee increase in 2020 from $450 to $550. It’s packed full of benefits, and the new Lyft and DoorDash enhancements feel more or less like a fair trade off for the increased annual fee.

This is by far the best Chase credit card when you look at the overall package: it has great earning rates on broad bonus categories, industry-leading travel protections, easy-to-use statement credits that help offset most of the annual fee, and a flexible rewards program that allows for high-value redemption opportunities.

The obvious comparison here to the CSR is the Amex Platinum. We’re fans of the benefits and statement credits that come with the Amex Platinum, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve undoubtedly reigns supreme thanks to its broader bonus spend categories, comprehensive card protections, Priority Pass restaurant credits, and the fact that the annual statement credits are significantly easier to use. But for many people, being under 5/24 is going to be the biggest barrier to entry for the CSR.

However, if you’re still shell shocked by the $550 annual fee, give the Chase Sapphire Preferred a look. You might find that it’s better suited to meet your needs if you want a more casual travel card. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a premium travel credit card with top-tier protections that covers all the bases, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best in the business.

What do you think about the Chase Sapphire Reserve? Let us know if you have any questions before you apply, and make sure you’re under 5/24!

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